Jake's Story

I am now 42 years old. As of the summer of 2006 life was going pretty well. I was married. I had three beautiful, healthy boys. I was very active, walking 4 miles or biking 20 miles a day. I traveled around the country and the world. And I thoroughly enjoyed my career as a litigator and partner in a very well-respected law firm in Madison Wisconsin. At that point in my life I felt, frankly, invincible.

Then on September 15, 2006, while riding my friend's motorcycle, I lost control and crashed. Unfortunately, I suffered a catastrophic injury to my neck, crushing several vertebrae and severing my spinal cord. For quite a while in the hospital I was completely unable to eat, drink, or even speak. The only way I could communicate was by blinking. After approximately 8 months, the accident left me a quadriplegic with only limited use of my right bicep and no use of my hands. Because my recovery leveled off, it was time to go home.

For a while I had some nursing care at home, with my wife taking care of me when nurses were not. This was, quite understandably, very difficult on my wife. I was, literally, unable to do anything for myself except breathe - and sometimes I even needed assistance with that. Eventually, just as many marriages do, ours ended in divorce. Fortunately I have my boys. But because I need 24-hour in-home care, I have since had to retain more nurses to assist me. Needless to say, all of the care I need is very expensive.

Since I had a well-paying job with good benefits, one would think I was protected and have coverage for such expenses. Not so. While I had excellent health insurance and even private disability insurance, those insurances do not provide complete coverage. For example, my house needed to be modified to accommodate a wheelchair, and I needed to purchase a van so that I have a means of transportation. Most significant, however, is the in-home nursing care. None of my insurance covers these expenses. Moreover, because my disability insurance gives me an income, I do not qualify for Medicaid or other public assistance. Consequently, I have to pay every penny for these expenses out-of-pocket.

Had there been some sort of federally run long-term care insurance program in effect at the time of my accident, I could have been eligible for much-needed financial assistance. Although it would not cover every dime, it would help. It is very easy, even comforting, to think a debilitating injury or illness cannot happen to you or someone you love. I did.